Monday, March 31, 2014

DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe #6: Let's never speak of any of this ever again.

Don't get excited. That is not the cover for the sixth and final issue of DC's thunderously disappointing DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe crossover series, nor is it a cover for an upcoming issue of DC's ongoing He-Man and The Masters of The Universe series. Rather, it is simply a pin-up that artist Stewart McKenny drew, and which I noticed on his Facebook feed the same day I happened to buy the previous issue of the DCUvMOTU series.

I post it here simply for contrast. If you're familiar with the characters (i.e. you grew up in the 1980s), then you'll notice that they are a) slightly tweaked versions of the characters as they appeared in the, let's face it, pretty terrible animated series, based on toy line (McKenny's Skeletor is much thinner, almost skeletal, and Evil-Lyn's neckline plunges deeper than I remember from the cartoon, but otherwise, they look like an artist filtering the original designs through his own style) b) the core line-up of the villains, Skeletor's "Evil Warriors" (well, the core line-up, plus Stinkor).

Of those eight villains on the image, only Skeletor and Evil-Lyn actually appear in DCvMOTU, and then in severely redesigned, you-might-not-recongize-'em-form. It seems inconceivable to me that you would do a miniseries based on the premise of a clash between these two worlds and not even include the obvious encounters that occurred to toy makers years ago*...
...but hell, what do I know.

I guess what I found so incredibly disappointing about the series is that I tend to view these sorts of crossover stories as once-in-a-lifetime sorts of exercises (Think JLA/Avengers or Marvel Vs. DC), and therefore I expect them to be both very good and to get in everything a fan might want to see happen. It's hard, but not impossible. Marvel Vs. DC isn't a great example, but JLA/Avengers is...I'm pretty sure writer Kurt Busiek and artist George Perez worked in every member of every team ever, all of their villains, all of their supporting characters, chunks of their history and every available location.

This is nowhere near as ambitious, perhaps because Giffen plotted it to simply be another chapter of the ongoing DC He-Man and The Masters of the Universe comic book DC is publishing, which has set about redesigning the characters costumes just as severely as the New 52 initiative redesigned DC's superheroes, and rather radically altered the status quo.

Seen that way, I guess it makes sense this is really just another terrible story arc of a terrible ongoing comic book series, and wasn't approached as anything special or historic or something-somebody-somewhere-might-conceivably-give-a-damn-about. And, unlike those DC/Marvel crossovers mentioned above, I guess there's no reason DC can't publish another, better DCU/MOTU crossover at some point in the future.

I'm fairly certain that they can't publish a worse one those, as comics don't get much worse than this.

The third cover artist to contribute to this six-issue series is Mikel Janin, regular artist for Justice League Dark, who is not exactly doing his best work ever here. That big, toothy pile of color effects in the background is "Dark Orko," the villain of the piece, while various members of the Justice League and the Masters of the Universe line-up rather asymmetrically on either side of the cover, Battle Cat doing the best job of hiding himself in shame from the readers' eyes (He's mostly obscured behind the UPC symbol and creator credits).

Wonder Woman's head, neck and raised fist, and at least half of The Flash, are still visible behind the tagline, reading "FINAL BATTLE! DARK ORKO VS. EVERYONE!"

While there is a sort of George Perez, Anti-Monitor vs. the DC Universe homage panel near the climax, "Everyone" here is a lot less ambitious than one might expect, given that two entire universes full of characters are mentioned right there in the title. In truth, the "Everyone" refers to the eight characters from the Masters of The Universe universe and maybe two dozen DC characters max, only a relative handful of whom actually do much of anything, or even get lines of dialogue.

For the final issue, the creative team re-falls apart a bit. Keith Giffen is responsible for the plot (Boooo!), whereas the script can be blamed on Tony Bedard (Boooo!). The art is mostly by Pop Mhan, who badly draws 14 pages, while an Eduardo Francisco draws six pages. There are two colorists, but they don't split their page assignations to correspond with that of the artists.

If you've forgotten where we left off, or succeeded in blocking it from your memory because it just hurt too much to think about, let me remind you of what has come before. Orko discovered the magic evil skull of Hordak's dad, and it turned him into "Dark Orko," a big, evil, monster version of himself; he conquered his home dimension of Trolla, turned all the other Orkos there into scary monsters, and then sent Skeletor to the DC Universe. There, the redesigned New 52 Skeletor teamed up with Black Alice, who was apparently just there to give Skeletor someone to talk to, and placed 12 magic siphons all around the world; these draw magic from the DCU and will channel it to the Orko, destroy Earth-New 52 in the process (So I guess that means we should root for Orko and Skeletor...?).

To keep the heroes off his back, Skeletor possessed the Justice League and pit them against He-Man and other arrivals in this dimension from Eternia, the first battle seemingly ended with He-Man stabbing Superman through the torso and making the Man of Steel disappear (In actuality, he was simply teleported to Trolla).

As of last issue, all the heroes were finally all on the same page, and they decided to team up with Skeletor to stop Orko. In retaliation, Orko possessed all of the super-people in the DCU and sent them to the House of Secrets to fight Skeletor and whoever was un-possessed. Why not just possess everyone via this global mind control spell? Because...



...Okay, I can't think of a good reason.

Anyway, let's read the last issue of the most disappointing comic book story of my life!

PAGES 1-4: According to Skeletor, "Orko sent your world's mightiest beings to destroy us!" These consist of Blue Beetle, Firestorm, Orion, Cheetah, Black Manta and a bunch of Batman villains—including The Joker (again), although I'm pretty sure that's an(other) art mistake.

This motley crew, visually identified as mind-controlled by the red lightning rising out of their eye-sockets, are meant to take out The Eternians, Batman and the Justice League Dark line-up. In order to cut off Orko's power supply (an save the world), Skeletor sends various teams of the un-mind-controlled to attack the siphons.

PAGES 5-8: Prince Adam, which we all know is He-Man before he says "Shazam!" and gets all big and muscular, has tried sneaking into Trolla in order to rescue Superman. After he exchanges some words with Orko, Adam shouts his catch prhase, turns into He-Man and cuts the magical shackles imprisoning Superman.

Orko sics "a billion" Trollans on them.

PAGE 9: We see four of the teams who have gone to destroy four of the siphons, each of which is apparently guarded by a mind-controlled DCU character. In Greece, John Constantine and Evil-Lyn are faced with Wonder Woman. In Egypt, Man-at-Arms and Madame Xanadu are faced with Black Adam. In Cambodia, Stratos and Deadman-in-Battle Cat are walking around (Not sure why Deadman is in Battle Cat; this version of Deadman doesn't need to possess anyone in order to speak to the living the way he did before the reboot). And, finally, in France, Roboto and Frankenstein fight Cyborg.

PAGE 10-11: Skeletor is fighting the mind-controlled Deathstroke, Batgirl, Scarecrow, Clayface, Bane and Killer Croc, but by "fighting" I simply mean he is posing and talking, while they are posing in his direction.
The rest of the page is devoted to Batman giving Black Alice a pep talk: "You have the ability to tap into the powers of those you've been in contact with," he says incorrectly (She has the ability to tap into the power of any magic-user, whether she's met them or not). At Batman's urging, she uses her power to borrow some of Orko's magic.

Now, the neat thing about Black Alice is that when she does this, she generally gets a one-time costume redesign, appearing in a generally scanty, goth version of a costume worn by a DCU magic user.

So one might expect her to appear, for at least a panel, in a naughty goth Orko get-up. This does not happen.
Instead, she just appears as a pair of eyes in the sky, breaking the mind-control spell, thus sparing Man-At-Arms from having his arms ripped off by Black Adam and Constantine and -Lyn from being similarly dismembered by Wondy.

PAGEs 12-14:

Superman tells He-Man he's "not much good against magic," so He-Man lends him his Sword of Power. They don't have to fight long though, as Orko opens a portal in Earth in order to collect the power he's had siphoned—but Skeletor jumps through it shouting "It's Mine!!"

While they wrestle, Superman and He-Man fly through the portal back to Earth, and Skeletor and Orko stumble after.

PAGES 15-16:
Dogpile on Orko!

This is the page that reminded me of that pretty famous COIE cover by Perez.
Although now that I look at them both at once, the Perez image is a little more detailed and dynamic, huh...?

PAGES 17-19:

Using his X-Ray vision, Superman sees the evil Hordak's Dad skull inside Orko, and hurls He-Man's Sword of Power at it, impaling it and instructing He-Man to "Get ready to light him up!"

He-Man intuits that this means to shout "By the Power of Grayskull!" This causes lightning to SHA-KOOM the sword-impaled skull, which...shatters the skull and doesn't something bad to Orko. Skeletor jumps on Orko's back, still shouting about the Power and that he must have it.

Constantine then snaps his fingers, and SWHFF the two villains disappear.

"Where are they, Constantine?" Batman asks, to which the mage responds "Gone, Batman. Forever, if I got it right."

Man-At-Arms isn't so sure; he cooly regards the closing vortex and says, "Let's hope so...But if there's one thing I've learned about Skeletor, it's that he always comes back."

PAGES 20-21: And then, Man-at-Arms and company suddenly react completely differently, raising their arms into the air and cheering at the defeat. He-Man and his mom hug (Oh yeah, He-Man's mom was in this, if you forgot. She's a lady from the DCU, and is somehow cursed so that she can never return to Eternia).

The best part is Teela and Man-at-Arms pondering their next move. "What do we do now? " Teela asks. "I mean, we did come here hoping to recruit Skeletor in our war against The Horde."

"We'll just have to find a different way to liberate Eternia," Man-at-Arms responds. The Justice League and a handful of superheroes from the DCU, who just accepted He-Man and company's aid in saving their world from Skeletor and Orko, not only don't volunetter, but Madame Xanadu and Constantine immediately open up a portal to Eternia and say "Godspeed to you all" and "Don't forget to write."
Nice heroing, a-holes.

At the bottom of the final page, there's a tag saying "Don't miss the origin of She-Ra starting in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #13!" but, if you somehow made it through all six of these awful issues, I can't imagine you would be at all interested in following the Eternians on to their next adventure. Or the heroes of the DC Universe on to any of their further adventures. Rather than serving as some sort of incentive to sell the He-Man comics to DC readers or DC comics to He-Man fans, this miniseries was basically a strong argument for never reading any comics featuring any of these characters again.

But don't judge all of the DC line of comics by this miniseries! While it's true many of them are not very good, and most of them are mediocre, few if any that I've read have been as poorly made as DC Universe Vs. Masters of the Universe, which we need never speak of again, and can, in fact, now being consciously trying to forget.

Or should we instead keep it in the back of our mind at all times? Well, I don't know that we should, but certain comic book publishers, editors and creators should think of it as a good example of how not to do a cross franchise story. After all, those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it, and therefore I assume that those that forget DC Universe Vs. Masters of the Universe are doomed to repeat it, and nobody wants that...

*In addition to an Aquaman Vs. Mer-Man two-pack set, Mattel also produced a Superman Vs. He-Man, a Lex Luthor vs. Skeletor, She-Ra Vs. Supergirl, Green Lantern vs. Zodac, Bizarro Vs. Faker and Hawkman Vs. Stratos...that last match-up is the only one to actually occur in the comic book series, aside from the He-Man and Superman fight. Is it even worth pointing out that the toy lines have the characters in their classic looks, rather than the New 52 redesings of the DC characters and the updated looks of the MOTU characters? For the most part, it looks like the designs from the Super Friends or Super Powers show doing battle with the designs from the original He-Man cartoon...with the Bizarro and Supergirl hailing from Superman: The Animated Series.


Anonymous said...

I'm trying very hard to process the logic behind having Teela straight-up say "Well what do we do nooooowwwww?" right in front of the DC heroes' faces.

The only reason I can think to do this, and follow it up with Constantine's "Don't forget to write," is to communicate the fact that these guys are dicks. Don't let the magical portal hit you on the way out. Or do, I mean, whatever.

The look on Moss Man's face, with this in mind, is hilarious.

SallyP said...

I glad that I'm not reading this.

David Charles Bitterbaum said...

Caleb, I'm so glad you made it out of reading this comic alive.